Dear Colleagues: In 1997-98 I reviewed a number of videos on race and racism that are available in the University of Michigan Film and Video library. Many of you have asked for a copy of my annotated bibliography. Comments are my take on the presentation and the issues and their usefulness for my "Unteaching Racism" class (RC 360), and are not intended to be prescriptive for others.

Helen Fox 1128 Angell Hall 48109-1003

Video Reviews

*** Great! **Some good features * Slow or off the point

*America in Black and White: #1 The Philadelphia Story 42 min.

ABC News 1996

Ted Koppel's week-long Nightline series aired in 1996 begins with a series of hate crimes against Bridget Ward, a young black woman who moves her family into a house she likes in a close-knit white, working class section of Philadelphia. When racial epithets and a ketchup trail appear on her steps the next day, Bridget's sister alerts the media. It's summertime and news is slow, so the fears, concerns, and blatently racist views of some of Bridget's neighbors soon become national news. In the end, everyone is mad at Koppel, from the neighbors, who feel that all the attention has besmirched their "ideal" community, to Bridget, who is angry that Koppel questions her about her present occupation (her body language suggesting he had agreed not to) and dredges up a past debt which, as Bridget points out, had not been known to the people who committed the hate crimes. Although the story might conceiveably raise awareness among students who believe racism is a thing of the past, its repetitiveness, its "he-said-she-said" style, and Koppel's own stereotyping and condescention as he interviews Bridget Ward make it very difficult to watch. The worst of what is really quite a good series overall, this first segment might be well to skip.

***America in Black and White: #2 How Much is White Skin Worth? 23min.

ABC News, 1996

Koppel starts off with the same audience of white neighbors that appeared in the first segment of this series, asking them the question that Prof. Andrew Hacker has been asking his young, white Economics students for twenty years: "How much money would you accept in compensation if you found out you had to live the rest of your life as an African American?" Their answers are eye-opening -- considering that these are the same folks who believe racism is a thing of the past and that compensation to blacks for past injustice is unnecessary. The second shocker is the personal story of Greg Williams, Dean and Professor of Ohio State University College of Law, about growing up first "white", then "black" in the racialized society of 1950s America. Born in Virginia to ostensibly white parents, he enjoyed the privileges of other white children in the segregated South. When he was ten, his parents' divorce forced a move with his "Italian" father to Muncie, Indiana, where he discovered a loving black grandmother and the rest of his African American relatives. His new status carefully noted on his high school record ("appears to be white, but father is colored -- don't be fooled"), the same Greg Williams now suffered exclusion from social activities, low expectations by teachers, and other indignities that continue to follow him though his ultimately successful career. A vivid example of the social construction of race and an eerie glimpse at the now-visible, now-invisible spectre that still causes delusions in the minds of perfectly normal Americans.

***America in Black and White: #3 The Color Line and the Bus Line

ABC News, 1996

Puzzled by the different reactions by his white (indifferent) and black (outraged) colleagues to the death of seventeen-year old Cynthia Wiggens in a traffic accident, Ted Koppel goes to Buffalo, NY to uncover "the insidious racism that whites don't acknowledge." Cynthia was flattened by a truck as she tried to make her way across a seven lane highway to get to her job in an up-scale mall in a white suburb. Blacks suspected immediately what whites generally didn't realize or want to acknowledge: irrational fear of low income blacks who might come to the mall to work or shop had blocked the construction of a safe, convenient bus stop and highway crossing between the two communities. Koppel uncovers more subtleties for his mostly white audience: how the dearth of businesses in the inner city made it necessary for working class blacks to cross the color line to in order to work at all; the regulations that prevent blacks from getting public sector jobs in the community that happens to be blessed with public services; the reasons why Cynthia wasn't safe in college beoming a pediatrician as she had dreamed (unreasonably, Koppel's tone suggests) but was instead a high school dropout struggling to support a beloved infant son. A memorable example of the complexity and insidiousness of institutial racism. Students remember these stories and repeat them, incredulously, to their friends.

** Redefining Racism: Fresh Voices from Black America 60 min.

PBS Home Video, 1997

Although there's no denying that racism still exists in America, there way too much emphasis on it these days, say these black middle class professionals. If racism is such a crippling force, they say, how do you explain the rise of the black middle class? People of African ancestry are the best educated and have achieved more in America than in any country in the world. Racism offers convenient excuses to poor blacks, especially young people, who wonder, "Why should I believe in this country, or try to do well in school if I hear that racism explains everything?" Vigorous self-reliance has always been a defining characteristic of the black community, so let's emphasize our positive achievements. While some of these African American commentators are political conservatives, such as Ward Connerly, the University of California Regent who speaks out strongly against affirmative action, others hold a range of views that cannot be characterized neatly . A successful young black who attended a mostly white college describes with humor and candor his growing self-confidence as he began to notice that some white students are highly intelligent, some are very, very stupid and most are average -- just like the black community. Julius Lester, a professor at Amherst College, deplores the labeling, name-calling and castigation by blacks of other blacks who deviate from a set political position. A good discussion starter, especially in classes with more than a few black students. To add complexity and depth of analysis, show this with the third in Ted Koppel's series, America in Black and White: The Color Line and the Bus Line, which traces the complex web of causation linking a simple traffic accident to what some view as institutional racism.

*** Who Killed Vincent Chin? 82 minutes

NY, NY: Filmakers Library, 1988

Chinese auto worker in a Detroit Chrysler plant killed by a father-son duo in 1983 after a bar fight which started with a remark that the Japanese are taking the jobs. Engaging story of how the Chinese community became pro-active and vocal. Brings out issues not usually discussed: how economics interacts with racism; small vs. big town influence; Japanese protectionism and loss of US jobs; acceptance of male violence as normal, white denial of racism, "sensationalism on both sides." Brings up good questions about media racism, pitting of races against each other. Is the definition of racism different in Chinese and white Detroit communities?

*** A Class Divided (first half, about 35 minutes)

Washington, D.C. : PBS Video, 1985

Third grade teacher's dramatic demonstration of how racism can be quickly learned, internalized and rationalized. Divides the class into blue eyes and brown eyes, telling the children convincingly that one eye color is better and more privileged than the other (then after a few days, switching the privilege to the other group). Original experiment was done in Riceville, Iowa, a very small, all white, all Christian community. Children's test scores changed dramatically in 24 hours, depending on whether or not their group was privileged. Interviews the same children as adults with families of their own; all are convinced this was a vitally important experience for them. Filmed originally by ABC News. Could be shown in two parts. First half is about the third grade class; second half is a similar exercise done with prison officials. Second part brings out "typical" behaviors of minority groups in response to stigma, issues of acting white, passing, uppity behavior, internalized racism, Freire's "naive consciousness" stage.

** Steven Jay Gould. Evolution and Human Equality 42 minutes

Cambridge, MA: Insight Video, 1987

Lecture format. Shows how present day racist arguments about genetic differences between blacks and whites are faulty. Presents new data about the closeness of races in human evolution. "Human equality is a contingent fact of history." Slides of pre-evolutionary debate about race before 1859 (pre-Darwin): Monogenists (Adam and Eve as creators of all people) vs. Polygenists (Bible is the story of history of whites, while others are separate species with separately created origins). Discusses the Eugenics movement including Craniometry ("hi and low brow"), and the idea of biologically criminal physiognomy. All racial diversity came about in the last 100,000 years at most, so there was no time for evolution to create any deep differences. Higher degree of variation within racial groups than between them.

** Black on White (The Story of English). 60 minutes

Chicago, IL: Films, Inc. 1986

Shows influences of black language on white south and on American English generally, from roots in West Africa to Rap. Shows use and imposition of Pidgin in slave holding forts in Africa; development of Creole during slavery; transmission of Creole to white, southern aristocracy by slave women working in plantation houses and by children designated as playmates for the master's offspring. Mentions present day code switching, shows some classroom teaching of standard English by black teachers and administrators who want children to be more accepted by the mainstream. Downplays present day racism.

* The Lemon Grove Incident 58 min.

NY, NY: Cinema Guild, 1985

Show how Mexican immigrants bring about the earliest US school desegregation case (California, 1930). Combination of old photos, newsreel, re-enactment, and interview with the actual people involved. Laws at that time allowed separation of "non-Caucasians" in CA schools, i.e. Asian, Native American, Blacks. Somewhat slow, a little corny, but portrays an important, little-known example of racism against Latinos.

*** Shadow of Hate 40 min.

Southern Poverty Law Center

Details hate crimes and prejudice against Catholics, Jews, Mexican-Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Blacks, Native Americans. White Protestants, especially males, look very bad.

*** Color of Fear 90 min.

Oakland, CA: Stir-Fry Productions, 1994

Men of different ethnicities come together in Ukiah, California to talk about their experience of racism. Emotional; bring kleenex. Great quotes for discussion: "America doesn't incorporate all of us." "Why can't you people just be individuals?" "Racism is basically a white problem." "American, white and human has become synonymous." "What is the white experience?" "It's a white responsibility to eliminate racism." Also discusses Asian, Black, Latino prejudices against each other. "Asians take their cues from whites." "I'm afraid of (blacks') misplaced rage." Consensus is that white supremacy and white racism dominate the world and especially the American experience. Very hard on the clueless white male, who finally comes to appreciate the other men's experiences. This video is much appreciated by many people of color because of the emotionally intense and highly articulate explanations of present-day racism and exclusion.

* Forbidden City, USA 57 min.

Los Angeles, CA: DeepFocus Productions, 1989

Shows the rise of the first Chinese nightclub in the 40s. Some discussion about prejudice; mostly film clips of dancing, reminiscences. Not particularly appropriate for discussions centering on racism.

*** Beyond Hate (Bill Moyers) 90 min.

NY: Mystic Fire Video, 1991

Psychology of hatred in general. LA gangs, white supremacist groups, neighbors, Bensonhurst, Israel, Vietnam, Hitler's Germany, India, China, Northern Ireland. Hate as energizing, self-righteous. Antidotes to hate. Quite long, but informative; somewhat "objective": sees hate as a general human problem rather than a white problem. Power differences not discussed. Good for discussion of what fuels prejudice.

* Bill Cosby on Prejudice 25 min.

Pyramid Fils, 1972

Inappropriate. A Cosby monologue spoofing standard prejudices. Not funny.

*** Ethnic Notions 57 min.

Berkeley, CA: California Newsreel, 1987

Demeaning stereotypes of blacks in cartoons, film, "blackface" and minstrel shows from pre-Civil war days until just before the advent of television after WWII. Historical aspects of how prejudice is taught and perpetuated at the "gut level." Shows how blacks are portrayed to people who had never seen them before as ugly, savage, stupid, a laughingstock, and/or powerless, and how some of these stereotypes have only somewhat mutated today. A mix of professors' comments, film, images of popular culture. Good for discussion of how racism is ingrained and perpetuated. Occasionally a bit over-analyzed. Show just before "Color Adjustment."

** Heathen Injuns and the Hollywood Gospel 30 min.

Seattle WA: Coproduction of KCTS-9 Seattle and United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, 1979.

How Hollywood movies created and perpetuated worldwide image of Indians as savage and sub-human, making up non-existent rituals that misinformed both Indian and other ethnic groups and internalized stereotypes and self-hatred in Indians. Indian women, especially, are dramatically demeaned in these clips.

** Racism 101 58 min.

Boston, MA: WGBH Educational Foundation, 1988

An episode of "Frontline" featuring University of Michigan, University of Massachusetts, and Dartmouth as examples of campuses where increasing "racial incidents" caused radical action on the part of black students (or white, in the case of Dartmouth Review). Brings up the usual campus feelings: "We don't owe them." "They keep themselves separate." At UM, shows BAM (BLack Action Movement) demands of president Harold Shapiro for immediate tenure for all black professors, funds for a black student union, target of 12% black students on campus. Makes campus racism a black and white issue; does not present enough information for students new to the issue to understand the complexities behind it. Can feel the white production behind this piece, in contrast to some others, such as Color Adjustment, which gets more into the black points of view.

*** School Colors 143 min.

Documentary Consortium of Public Television Stations, Alexandria, VA PBS Video, 1992

A special edition of Frontline documenting ethnic group separation at Berkeley High in 1994. Deals with ways students are separated from each other by the administration (for good and/or for ill), from tracking to the Afro-American studies department, which has an Afrocentric curriculum and few students of other ethnicities. Some wonderful teaching is shown here. Little discussion of how socio-economic class may contribute to anger and academic achievement differences. Mostly black-white problems shown; some Chicano, some unexplained trouble between Chicanos and Latinos (US born/immigrant Mexican). Shows some interesting student videotapes. Brings up questions: Does this emphasis on ethnic differences address the US reality or promote dis-unity? Why do students self-segregate? How does tracking add to the problem? Is de-tracking the answer? What kind of teachers, teaching, attitudes, etc. encourage tentative solutions? Is this high school experiencing a problem, or is it evidence that things are changing for the better?

*** True Colors 20 min.

ABC: Journal Graphics, 1991

Primetime Live. Hidden cameras document "everyday" racism, privilege, prejudice in St. Louis when young black and white colleagues try to get same services in a white middle class community. Very effective for audiences who doubt that racism still exists or who haven't experienced it personally.

*** Color Adjustment 87 min.

San Francisco, CA: California Newsreel, 1991

TV images of the ideal family and the American Dream from the advent of television to today. Shows how blacks continue to be stereotyped, mainstreamed, and/or left out to make the black experience "palatable" to white America. In two parts: '48-'68 showing blacks' optimism after WWII when segregation had been abolished in the armed forces. Despite this hopeful sign, early TV continued the black minstrel show tradition with Amos and Andy, an "indescribably popular" farce that showed blacks, especially black men, as ignorant buffoons, and pandered to America's popular image of them as lazy and opportunistic. Sued by the NAACP before it opened, it lasted two seasons. After this there was a void of blacks in the media (TV, radio, magazines) at all (though the Nat King Cole Show was a powerful exception), and white families were pictured as perfect (Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, etc.). Shows the effect of this on black psyche: "There was something good and wholesome about white culture." In the 60s, ("Julia,") the model black family appeared (though the father was absent). Shows like "Good Times" "made the ghetto palatable." The Cosby Show, too, was "a comfort to white America" in that it showed an affluent, highly successful family. Great quotes from James Baldwin add a chilling effect. Short clips of interviews with Steven Bochco ("Television is the most powerful communications medium in the history of the world"), Norman Lear, and other producers of these shows. Brings up provocative questions: "What is the extent of TV's responsibility for creating and perpetuating racism and white supremacy?"

* + Race, the Floating Signifier 63 min.

Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation, 1996

Lecture, with some interview and a few, low-budget clips, by Stuart Hall of The Open University in Britain. A Cultural Studies approach to "the logic of how racism is cultivated in our imaginations." Shows how the human mind categorizes, how physical difference is easy to use as a marker, how these superficial differences are much less fixed than we think, how first religion, then anthropology, then genetics have been used by white supremacists to connect physical characteristics to attitudes, intelligence, and other descriptors. Somewhat "floating" itself, as an argument; many claims, but short on examples and other kinds of evidence. The format is a bit monotonous, but the lecturer is likable, attractive, engaged in his subject with some passion.

Making Peace Program #104: Facing Racism. 57 min.

Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humnanities & Sciences, 1997

Community therapist Lee Mun Wah (who filmed and is featured in "Color of Fear") facilitates several days of dialogue among adults of all ethniticies, resulting in many highly charged moments. Several participants record their feelings in video journal form throughout the workshop. Some poignant quotes here: Latino man: "My fear is that you will think me less of a man because of this wound that makes me feel so shy sometimes." Chinese American woman: "I feel that (by coming to the workshop) I am giving up my sheer invisibility that has been part of me all my life." Native American woman: "I don't need to play race duty; I don't need to teach anyone about what it's like to be a person of color." Like "Color of Fear," this video is especially hard on white males, some of whom become aware of the feelings and experiences of people of color for the first time. Use this video with caution: it can call up extremely painful feelings for some people of color.

** Pockets of Hate 25 min.

Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities, 1993

A report on the increase of hate crimes -- beatings, grafitti, racial epithets, open bragging about violence -- by young, poor whites against upper middle-class Indians in Jersey City. Links are made between the worsening economic prospects of urban, blue collar youth and the increase of tension and violence against "foreigners" who appear to have "made it." Interviews of the perpetrators and their families as well as the victims bring up interesting possibilities for discussion: to what degree "not becoming American" sets up immigrants for attack; whether fear of difference is a "natural" human trait; who or what is responsible for the crass anti-immigrant attitides expressed by the perpetrators: the education system, global capitalism, the family, or the youths themselves. An interview with a professor of African American studies, Dr. Lenworth Gunther, explores the connection between hate crimes in areas of urban blight and those on college campuses.

** Not In Our Town 27 min.

Oakland, CA: California Working Group, 1995

PBS features the response of the Billings, Montana, community to a series of hate crimes against Jews, Native Americans, gays and lesbians, and Blacks by a group that is attempting to create an "Aryan homeland" in five states in the Northwest. Though we don't gain much insight into the perpetrators' lives or motives (except one ex-member of the Aryan Resistance saying, "If only someone would have come and taught me about people..."), we do see first-rate community activism, creative and effective countering of violence and threats, and the good-hearted American-ness of this western city. One wonders if it's as simple as the decent folks against the outlaws, but it is a nice counter to the idea that ethnic hatreds are so complex and ingrained that we can do nothing.

Also recommended:

**+ Rosewood

The true story of the destruction of a mostly black town in Florida in the 1920s by white "good ole boys" and a false accusation made by a white woman. Violent, mean, sadistic. Some attempt to show the reasons behind white "cracker" behavior; most whites are shown as a mixture of good and evil. Shows black heroism and black family values at their best. Good to prime discussion of the KKK and present day hate groups, and to point out the lasting effect of violent incidents in the South on the current state of race relations.

**Spring of Discontent 56 min.

Ann Arbor, MI: Univ. of Michigan Media Resource Center, 1990.

Documentary showing ugly confrontations over treaty rights of Native peoples in Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington and other states. Focuses on Native rights to spear-fishing that disadvantage whites and white-owned companies, as well as the power struggle between the Indian Nations and US federal and state governments. Various positive solutions are shown, including co-management of resources, Native leadership in environmental concerns, and whites and Indians working toward understanding and cooperative processes. Some good 1970s footage, but the presentation is somewhat difficult to follow in spots, perhaps because the subject is complex. Best for audiences with a particular interest in legal issues. Some strange blank spots in the tape require viewer patience.

**Listen To Me 45 min

Ann Arbor, MI: The Regents of the University of Michigan, 1990

Student-made video featuring students of various ethnicities at U of M's School of Nursing who talk about their family backgrounds and customs, their experiences with discrimination and prejudice, and their "American dream." Somewhat slow, but some of the students' stories stick with you, such as the working class white woman who grew up among blacks, but who now finds herself rejected at Uof M by both the black community (who see her as white) and the white community (who see her as strange).

***Promised Land (Series of three, 90 min. videos)

Bethesda, MD: Discovery Channel, 1995

This three-part documentary traces the "greatest peacetime migration in American history": the black migration from the South to the "Promised Land" of Chicago in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. I cannot praise this video highly enough. It takes the BBC to show in all its gritty and glorious detail this suppressed chapter of US history from an African American perspective. Based on Nicholas Lehman's book of the same name, Promised Land shows both beautiful and appalling footage from the days of sharecropping: the blues harmonica music that grew up around the railroad, the punishing work of picking cotton, the terrifying inevitablitability of white power, and the unspeakable living conditions that finally led to the vast migration into a post-war economy where any black from Mississippi could walk into the Chicago stockyards and be hired on the spot. Part II features the Pullman Porters and their prominance in union organizing, the rise of the great black-owned newspaper, The Chicago Defender, and the experience of coming into the great, glittering city on a train that "took you to heaven." Part III shows blacks' disillusionment with the present-day conditions in Chicago, now "the most racially segregated city in America." Shows some spectacular black success stories as well as the violence, drugs and general hopelessness resulting from declining employment opportunities. The only thing that mars this series is the lack of analysis of why the present-day booming economy is leaving so many blacks behind, other than a few references to the glass ceiling for black professionals. Students of all ethnicities should have the opportunity to see this lively history of the people who worked so hard and built so much in the 30 years that opportunity was open to them.